Sunday, June 20

Airplane, hotel and vaccine: Mexicans indulge in health tourism in the US

A woman receives the vaccine in Chicago in early April.
A woman receives the vaccine in Chicago in early April.CARLOS BARRIA / Reuters

Gabriela Santos, 32, was sent on a work trip to Miami in mid-April and took the opportunity to explore the possibility of getting vaccinated. Another colleague from the same public relations company had told her that it was not so easy for non-residents and gave her some advice: “There is a Mexican lady who looks for pharmacies in the Latino neighborhoods where they don’t ask you anything.” In exchange for $ 100, the lady got Santos an appointment at an establishment near the airport. “They only asked me if I had health insurance, if I was pregnant or if I had any allergies. Nothing else, ”he says by phone, already back in Mexico City and with a plane ticket purchased for his second take on Pfizer on May 6. For the second puncture, he will not even need the help of his compatriot because Florida just this Friday completely liberalized vaccination. “I even have friends who are going to Las Vegas for the weekend with a package that includes a plane, a hotel and a vaccine.”

First, it was the richest Mexicans in the north who began to make trips, almost black market, to the other side of the border – especially Texas or Arizona – to get a vaccine and to anticipate their turn according to their vaccination plan. country. As the months go by, and as more and more States are opening vaccination to anyone who requests it, without imposing residency requirements, the number and profile of Mexicans who decide to go for their immunization in the United States widens. The trips to the country in search of the drug against the covid have shot up 70% since the doors of more States were opened, according to the Mexican tourism association.

“In the last month I have almost sold more than in all that I have been this year,” says Giuliana Ibarra, 44, who owns the GiuTravel travel agency. Tourism, a sector especially hit during the pandemic, has found a loophole in Mexico with these medical trips. The agencies have been offering all-inclusive packages for weeks that are around $ 600: plane, flight, car and appointment for the vaccine. Texas, Arizona and Louisiana were the first destinations to open, followed by California, Nevada or Florida. “They are usually fast trips with that objective. Few stay to do tourism ”, adds Ibarra.

After the first vaccination, Santos felt relief: “In Mexico it is not even clear when it will be our turn. Until recently it seemed that thirty-something would have to wait until next year. Now it seems that it has advanced to October or November ”. Shortages and supply problems marked the first stages of the Mexican vaccination plan, which faces the challenge of vaccinating 117 million people for free. The government hoped to vaccinate almost 15 million people over 60 years and all health personnel before the end of March, but the deadlines have nevertheless been extended until May. With 12 million inhabitants already vaccinated, Mexico is placed in a medium-low position in the table of doses applied per 100,000 inhabitants.

Chile, with a population of almost 19 million and agreements for 35 million doses, leads the continental ranking. The United States follows. They are also above Mexico, Argentina or Costa Rica. While it surpasses Colombia, which has taken longer than its neighbors to get the vials, or Peru, which experienced a scandal over the secret vaccination of hundreds of influential figures.

More than half of the adult population of the United States already has at least one dose of one of the three vaccines offered in the country: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, which last weekend was distributed again after 11 days of restriction due to a few episodes of thrombi. By July, the world power will have a surplus of 300 million injections, according to a report by the Center for Innovation in Global Health of Duke based on the contract that the US government signed with AstraZeneca, on the verge of obtaining authorization from the authorities sanitary. In this surplus scenario, the US has already announced that it will donate 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to other countries.

Meanwhile, at the end of March the Mexican government revised up the real number of deaths from the pandemic: more than 321,000. Roberto Anaya, 35, a purchasing manager for a department store, was closely affected by the death of several family members. Three weeks ago he also decided to go looking for the vaccine in the US “I had a trip to New York and I took advantage of it. It took me a bit to get the appointment online, but on the second try I succeeded ”. An ad has already started running among his neighbors to spend the vaccination weekend in Las Vegas.

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